I’m not sure there is another state in the nation like Wisconsin. Perhaps some are close in landscape, but surely not in personalities. And what is this obsession with cheese?
Could you imagine being a lactose intolerant Wisconsinite? Cheese, cheese, cheese – it’s everywhere in that state. Okay, to be fair, cheese is big in Wisconsin for a reason. That state alone produces more than a quarter of the nation’s cheese. In fact, if Wisconsin were its own country, it would rank in the top five of the world’s cheese production. So, I get it. Cheese is very important.
But, let’s talk about cheese curds for a moment. My introduction to cheese curds was actually on my final day in the state. My colleague and friend, Brian, took me to my first-ever dairy breakfast. It was at a beautiful family dairy in Waumandee.
One by one, volunteers placed breakfast items on my plate – pancakes, sausage, sliced cheese, and … Well, I wasn’t sure what it was. With big, doe-eyes, I looked up at the friendly woman, smiled and innocently asked, “What is that?”
She looked at me like I had turned green and sprouted antennas. Her tone was incredulous: “They’re cheese curds.”
I am certain she thought I was nuts.
My voice came out in a bashful whisper. “I’m sorry, I’ve never seen them before. I’m not from here.” Clearly she knew it before I said it. I lowered my head and quickly found a seat at a table.
I’d heard a lot about cheese curds since arriving in Wisconsin and now, at last, was my opportunity to try them. I took a deep breath and prepared myself for the state’s seemingly most beloved food. Would this odd-shaped, spongy, orange lump live up the hype of the past few days? Now was my chance to find out. I lifted it to my mouth and took a bite.
The cheese curd squeaked against my teeth as I bit down on it. That’s a weird sensation when you’re not prepared for it. A little unsettling, really. I don’t know if cheese curds always squeak or just sometimes. I didn’t take another bite to find out.
But then there was this guy:
He walked around all morning with his tray of deep fried cheese curds. The one bite I had previously was not fried. I’m really not sure how it was prepared. It was just fresh, I suppose. But, I digress. Back to the curd pusher.
He came by the radio station booth several times and I did finally try a deep fried cheese curd. It did not squeak, I was pleasantly surprised to discover. It was actually quite tasty and if I ever go back to Wisconsin, I will try more.
Really, there’s more than cheese.
Now that I have thoroughly examined the fascination with cheese, I’d love to tell you about the beautiful landscape of Wisconsin. I got to see much of the western-to-central areas, and it was all breathtakingly beautiful. I have seen few places that rival the beauty of this state. Rolling green hills as far as the eye can see, brilliant blue skies sometimes so bright and beautiful it hurt to look for too long, and clear, glassy lakes reflecting the sun.
Whether or not you’re a fan of cheese – or a Cheese Head, as some would say – Wisconsin is a great place to visit if you love wide open spaces and serene drives through beautiful farmland.
One bit of advice – bring the bug spray. I ended up with dozens of mosquito bites.